Winter Tales

Winter tales — stories to tell or to read around a warm fire on a cold dark night, preferably with a steamy hot drink to wrap your hands around.

H m brock

“Ghost Stories Round the Christmas Fire” (1911)
by H.M. Brock for The Christmas Tree by Charles Dickens
Source: Brom Bones Books.

Winter tales are mostly ghost stories, and often associated with Christmas. I try to share a few every year during the Holiday Season. This is where I collect links or copies of all the (mostly) public domain winter tales I’ve blogged about.

12/2/2018 — I’ve now added links to my original blog posts, where I include more commentary about the story or the author, and sometimes why I chose a particular story, as well.



The Old Portrait A Christmas vampire story by Hume Nesbit — my first winter tale!
Original blog post


The first “official” year of the Winter Tales series. I was still working the series out, and leaning heavily on the Christmas theme.

A Christmas Tree
By Charles Dickens. More of an essay than a story. In the first part of the essay Dickens writes about his childhood memories, and about story telling in general (lots of references to 1001 Nights). In the second part he gives us synopses of some winter ghost stories that he’s heard over the years.
Original blog post.

Dickon the Devil
By Sheridan Le Fanu. Originally published in the Christmas number of London Society magazine, though it’s not a Christmas-themed story. Nice creepy bedtime visitation.
Original blog post.

A Kidnapped Santa Claus
A charming fairy tale/children’s story by Frank L. Baum of Wizard of Oz fame.
Original blog post.

Christmas Storms and Sunshine (Link to Project Gutenberg)
By Elizabeth Gaskell. Not a ghost story, but a Christmas fable. Rather sweet.
Original blog post.

The Autobiography of a Quack (Link to Project Gutenberg)
A medical short story by Silas Weir Mitchell with just a hint of Christmas spice, and a touch of a Christmas ghost — maybe.
Original blog post.


The Marble Child
By Edith Nesbit. Published in the 1910 Christmas number of The Graphic magazine. A lonely little boy makes a new friend.
Original blog post.

The House On the Cliff
By W. J. Wintle. Cyril just wanted to get away for some peace and quiet, but he got more than he bargained for.
Original blog post.

The Searcher of the End House
By William Hope Hodgson. One of Carnacki the Ghost-finder’s early cases: a ghostly game of hide-and-seek.
Original blog post.

The Old Nurse’s Story
By Elizabeth Gaskell. Ghost organs and old secrets haunt Furnivall Manor.
Original blog post.

The Highwaymen
By Lord Dunsany. Not quite a ghost story, but a lovely little weird tale that just begs to be read aloud.
Original blog post.

The Family of a Vourdalak (as PDF: 1.8 MB)
Also as EPUB (520 KB)
By Alexei Tolstoy. A longer novella. A womanizing French diplomat stays with a Serbian family (with a beautiful daughter) whose patriarch may or may not be a vourdalak (vampire).
Original blog post.


The Crown Derby Plate (Link to Project Gutenberg Australia)
By Marjorie Bowen. Martha Pym has two wishes: to see a ghost, and to complete her Crown Derby tea service.
Original blog post.

Account Rendered
By W. F. Harvey. Mr. Tolson has a strange desire: to be anesthetized on a certain December date, at midnight. And he’s willing to pay a lot for it. But why?
Original blog post.

At Chrichton Abbey
By Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Is there doom hanging over the sons of the Chrichton family? Can getting married prevent it?
Original blog post.

Maestro Pérez, Organist
By Gustavo Bécquer. Maestro Pérez, brilliant organist, dies while playing at the Christmas midnight Mass. Who will play the organ next year? Not scary, but the first two-thirds are a good Christmas ghost story. (The translation, by Armand F. Baker, is not public domain. Please don’t share without attribution.)
Original blog post.

The Devil’s Cross
By Gustavo Bécquer. There is a strange iron cross by the banks of the Segre River, and no one ever prays there. (The translation, by Armand F. Baker, is not public domain. Please don’t share without attribution.)
From the same blog post as “Maestro Pérez, Organist”.


Number Ninety
By B. M. Croker. John Hollyoak, skeptic, agrees to spend the night in Number Ninety, a house of “such a desperate reputation, that even the adjoining mansions stood vacant.” Does it change his mind? Of course it does.
Original blog post.

Thirteen At Table
By Lord Dunsany. Sort of a companion piece to “Number Ninety.” Mr. Linton ends up at a most interesting dinner party. Is the haunting rats in the wainscoting, or bats in the belfry? You decide. Slightly creepy and gently humorous.
Original blog post.

The Haunted Dragoon
By Arthur Quiller-Couch. A handsome dragoon (cavalry or mounted infantryman), searching for a fugitive smuggler, billets himself and his men at the home of a miserly farmer and his much younger, love-starved wife. The inevitable happens, with dark, dark consequences….
Original blog post.

The Kit-Bag
By Algernon Blackwood. Johnson works for a law firm that has just won the acquittal (by insanity) of an especially vicious murderer. Worn out by the case, and obsessed by the killer’s evil face, Johnson plans to recover by spending his Christmas holiday in the Alps. Assuming he manages to finish packing for his trip.
Original blog post.

The Magic Shop
By H.G. Wells. A story both sweet and unsettling; the narrator and his son happen upon a wonderful magic shop — one that the narrator hadn’t remembered as being quite in that place.
Original blog post.

The Half-Haunted (Link to Wikisource)
By Manly Wade Wellman (writing as Gans T. Field). The site of a Revolutionary War era murder still holds its memories — and more. This New Year’s eve tale is more action-packed than spooky, but it’s fun.
Original blog post.


Some “true” spooky stories from Ghosts and Family Legends: A Volume for Christmas (1858) by Catherine Crowe:

The Face in the Fresco (Link to Ghosts & Scholars)
By Arnold Smith. A Jamesian tale about the collision of the old ways and the new. Mr. Jones takes a weekend to visit a newly discovered, rather sinister twelfth-century fresco.
Original blog post.

A Strange Christmas Game
By Charlotte Riddell. Struggling artist John Lester and his sister unexpectedly inherit a country estate — which is haunted by the ghost of an ancestor. Things come to a head on Christmas Eve.
Original blog post.

Christmas Eve (as PDF: 1.6 MB) Also as EPUB (114 KB)
By Nikolai Gogol. No ghosts, but witches, the devil, and lots of farcical supernatural hijinks. A pious blacksmith colludes with the devil to impress the woman he loves. Rich in details of Ukrainian folklore and folklife. This one isn’t spooky, but it’s a lot of fun.
Original blog post.

Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk
By Frank Cowper. A stranded duck hunter must spend Christmas Eve alone on a mysterious derelict ship. But is he really alone?
Original blog post.

The Houseboat
By Richard Marsh. Sort of a companion piece to “Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk.” Eric and Violet Millen hear a ghostly argument on their rented houseboat — one with deadly consequences.
Original blog post.


The Doll’s Ghost
By F. Marion Crawford. Mr. Puckler the doll doctor loves his job and the dolls that he repairs, but he loves his daughter Else more. He develops a special fondness for the doll Nina, perhaps because she reminds him a little of Else.
Original blog post.

The Trial for Murder
By Charles Dickens. A banker recalls some visions and visitations he had relating to a sensational murder. Sort of a companion piece to “The Kit-Bag.”
Original blog post.

Dark Christmas (Wayback Machine Link to Jeanette Winterson’s old website)
By Jeanette Winterson. A mysterious, isolated house; footsteps in empty rooms; bats; flaky electricity, and of course (that modern touch) a phone that gets no signal. A contemporary winter tale in the traditional mode.
Original blog post.

My Wife’s Promise
By Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Dunrayne promises his beloved wife Isabel that he has given up Arctic exploration for good, but she can see how that promise is killing him, and she loves him enough to release him from his vow. Dunrayne swears that this expedition will be the last time.
Original blog post.

The Maid of the Mill
By Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon. The tale of a haunted mill, where manifestations occurred every Christmas Eve for nineteen years, and three separate ghost hunter parties were driven to madness while investigating. But, of course, there had to be a fourth attempt. It went about as well as you would expect.
Original blog post.

2018: Folklore-themed winter tales

by Sabine Baring-Gould. Icelandic hero-outlaw Grettir Ásmundarson battles the draugr (vengeful revenant) Glámr. Retold from the 13th century Icelandic Grettis saga.
Original blog post.

  • Grettir at Thorhall-stead (link to Library of America’s Story of the Week website)
    by Frank Norris. Another retelling of the Grettir and Glámr story.

Hertford O’Donnell’s Warning
By Charlotte Riddell. An Irish surgeon lives in London, having been estranged from his family in Ireland for twelve years. He begins to hear a mysterious wailing that no one but himself and his dog can hear. He knows it’s the family banshee. But is she wailing for him, or someone else in the family? Things come to a head on Christmas Eve.
Original blog post.

Anne Lisbeth (Link to The Hans Christian Andersen Centre)
By Hans Christian Andersen. A proud woman abandons her own child, leaving him with another family, to become the nursemaid to the son of a Count. Mother’s and son’s lives take different directions: she becomes affluent and respectable; he goes out to sea. Their fates eventually collide again — in quite a spooky way.
Original blog post.

The Other Side: A Breton Legend
By Eric Stenbock. A gentle and misfit young boy named Gabriel falls prey to a mysterious woman from “the other side” of the brook near his village. There, on the other side, live “the were-wolves and the wolf-men and the men-wolves, and those very wicked men who for nine days in every year are turned into wolves.” On this side of the brook is Gabriel’s dear friend Carmeille, who tries to keep Gabriel away from the evil influence that entices him. Who will win?
Original blog post.

The Ghost of the Cross-roads
By Frederick Manley. It’s a cold, blustery Christmas night, and jolly festivities are going on at the humble Sweeny household. Suddenly, a wealthy upper-class stranger stumbles, half frozen, to the house. He has a strange tale to tell about a mysterious dark man, and a card game at the crossroads.
Original blog post.

The Swaying Vision
By Jessie Douglas Kerruish. Poor Mr. Chadwick must turn to his old schoolfriend, psychic investigator Lester Stukeley, to solve the mystery of his haunted house.
Original blog post.

2019: Unusual Hauntings

The Festival
By H.P. Lovecraft. The narrator journeys to spooky New England, in accordance with family tradition, to participate in a once-every-century winter festival. What he experiences is ancient, eldritch, and adjective-laden.
Original blog post.

The Fourth Wall
By A.M. Burrage. Five people take a cottage in the country just before the Christmas season. No, it’s not your stereotypical absurdly cheap rental; it fact it’s perfectly delightful. Almost too delightful.
Original blog post.

Sir Hugo’s Prayer
By G.B. Burgin. Sir Hugo Follett and his wife Lady Follett have haunted Dulverton Castle for centuries. Now their descendant Claire Follett needs their help. A humorous ghost story that I shared for Christmas Eve.
Original blog post.

The Moral Opiate
By William Bradley. Birchington Priory isn’t haunted, per se; in fact, the Blue Bedroom of Sir Darcy’s annexe is a cheerful, pleasant room–the very opposite of spooky. But it’s a sinister place nonetheless, and the downfall of several guests at Birchington Priory.
Original blog post.


House of Strange Stories
By Andrew Lang. Ghost stories around the fire: four people share accounts of eerie events in their lives. One of those tales is strikingly similar to a famous 1906 story by E.F. Benson (pre-dating it by twenty years).
Original blog post.

The Blue Room
By Lettice Galbraith. Something is wrong with the Blue Room at Mertoun House. No one will say quite what, and several people have safely spent the night there. And yet the Mertouns keep the room unoccupied. Until one ill-fated Christmas evening….
Original blog post.

“The Earth Draws”
By Jonas Lie. A tale based on Norwegian folklore, about a young shopkeeper’s assistant who stumbles upon the shipping docks (and supplies) of “the underground folk,” invisible beings who live within the mountainside. This discovery will have consequences, come Christmastime.
Original blog post.

The Ghosts at Grantley
By Leonard Kip. Grantley Grange boasts not one, but two remarkably similar ghosts: one for the upstairs and one for the downstairs. They show up regularly every Christmas, and they don’t seem to know that they’re dead!
Original blog post.

Oberon Road
By A.M. Burrage. A sweet little fairy tale that I shared for Christmas Eve. Michael Cubitt is a bit of a miser, a man neither good nor bad. Then one rainy evening just before Christmas, Cubitt meets an odd little man who (literally) sets Mr. Cubitt on a new path.
Original blog post.

Fladda Light
By Hilton Brown. Hudson Burke is the new keeper of Fladda Light, a lighthouse with a dark reputation: “It was not a good place for men to be in,” they said. Will Burke survive his lighthouse duty with body and mind intact?
Original blog post.

The Dance of the Dead
By Dick Donovan. A translation/adaptation of “Der Todtentanz” by Johann August Apel. Young artist Robert falls in love with Brunhelda, the lovely daughter of the hateful mayor of Neisse, who thinks Brunhelda is too good for a penniless painter. Strange old Willibald is a bagpiper of such amazing abilities that he can make anyone dance—even the dead. Can he help the young lovers out?
Original blog post.


Croglin Grange
By Augustus Hare. Captain Fisher tells the story of the sister and two brothers who leased his family home, Croglin Grange, and the spooky, creepy housebreaker they encountered.
Original blog post.

A Sworn Statement
By Emma Francis Dawson. The valet Wilkins relates the story of his former employer, Mr. Audenried, and his relationship (or non-relationship?) with the mysterious silent woman who seems to co-inhabit their dwelling.
Original blog post.

The Four-Fifteen Express
By Emelia B. Edwards. William Langford plans to spend December with some old friends in East Anglia. A chance encounter on the train ride to his hosts’ home leads to a mystery, a scandal—and maybe more.
Original blog post.

Crowdy Marsh
By Sabine Baring-Gould. A folklore-inflected, fairy-taleish story that I shared for Christmas Eve. While lost after dark on Bodmin Moor, the narrator stumbles across a mysterious, lonely cottage on the edge of Crowdy Marsh.
Original blog post.

A Ghost’s Revenge
By Lettice Galbraith. It’s a race against time. Can Gerald Harrison save his best friend before an angry ghost takes its New Year’s revenge?
Original blog post.

Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts
By Jeremiah Curtin. One evening at a wake, Daniel Crowley the coffin-maker drunkenly extends an invitation that he probably didn’t expect anyone to take him up on. Surprise!
Original blog post.


A Musical Mystery
Anonymous. A strange man visits a mortuary to purchase an oddly shaped coffin—for himself.
Original blog post.

Number Two, Melrose Square
by Theo Gift (Dora Havers). An author in London to work on her book finds a furnished house, with servant, conveniently near the British Museum. As always, if the rent sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Original blog post.

The Ghost of Charlotte Cray
by Florence Marryat. A lighter-hearted warning to playboy-types: be more careful and considerate in your relationships.
Original blog post.

Sister Johanna’s Story
by Amelia Edwards. A love-triangle ghost story, inspired by the author’s travels through the Gröden Valley in the Dolomite Alps. Heartbreaking, but lovely.
Original blog post.

Squire Humperdinck and the Devil
by F. G. Grundemann. A delightful fairy-tale for Christmas Eve, about a greedy landowner and a mischievous little boy who foils the squire’s evil plans.
Original blog post.

A Curious Experience
by Ellen Wood. There’s something not right about this beautiful boarding house bedroom.
Original blog post.

Tale of a Gas-Light Ghost
Anonymous. Mysterious Gregory Barnstake comes to live in rural Mapleton, keeping largely to himself. Why does Barnstake avoid society? What’s his secret?
Original blog post.

More Winter Tales

Christmas Ghost Stories: a collection of winter tales
Author Mark Onspaugh’s wife Tobey Crockett happened to drop by one of my Christmas Ghost Story posts, and she mentioned her husband’s recent collection of sixteen winter tales. How could I resist? I read it over Christmas Eve and Christmas evening, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Some of them are fairy tales, some of them are straight up ghost stories; all of them are a good read. My favorites: the four linked Black Forest stories: “The Woodcutter’s Tale,” “The Innkeeper’s Tale,” “The Tinker’s Tale,” and “The Huntman’s Tale.”

The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Stories
Every year, Valancourt Books puts out a collection of Christmas Stories culled from 19th century periodicals. There are four volumes as of Christmas season 2020. Some are from well-known authors; others by writers long forgotten, but there’s much of interest in every volume. I highly recommend the series.

8 thoughts on “Winter Tales

  1. Does anyone know what year Frederick Manley, the author of The Ghost At The Crossroads died and if so where did you find this information? I’ve Googled everything I can think of to no avail.

    1. Unfortunately, my source for “The Ghost At The Crossroads” only gave publication information, and no biographical information about the author.

      There is an American author named Frederick Manley (“The Ghost at the Crossroads” was published in a London periodical), who could be the right age — he appears to have been some sort of Professor of English/English Literature. His books were published in the 1901-1903 timeframe (“Ghost” was published in 1893).

      There is also an American Frederic Manley (no “k”), who published poetry with the same publishing house as the abovementioned Frederick Manley — groups them as the same author; the Online Books page apparently does not. He (or rather, his heirs) published a posthumous volume of his poetry in 1915.

      So if these are all the same Frederick Manley (which is not certain) he died in or prior to 1915.

      Links to F. Manley books on

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.